Monday, August 11, 2008

I read books - about Mexico City

David_lida_book One of the fun things about blogging about travel is that people send you stuff. Just because. They don’t even expect you to write anything about it, but of course are delighted if you do. Especially when you write something positive.


Most of the time, I don’t bother to write anything, because either the stuff is crap, or totally irrelevant to this blog. However, books are always welcome. Send me more books, please. Even if I don’t like them, I can always use them as doorstops. Or give them away as last-minute gifts, or what-not. And I may even write about them, too.


And speaking of writing… I’m really enjoying the writing of David Lida. He’s a journalist based in Mexico City, and his new book “First Stop in the New World” came in the mail not so long ago. And this is one book definitely worth saying positive things about.


Mr. Lida moved to Mexico City in 1990, if I remember correctly. And if I’m not going totally senile here, my first Mexico City adventure was in the early 1990s, too.


I got robbed silly in Cancun and the friendly police chief there who took my statement, felt sorry for me and actually gave me enough money for a bus ride to Mexico City. I was to go straight to the embassy to sort out my travel documents, and then to an Amex office to pick up the cash my best buddy dutifully wired to me.


The bus ride was long. And boring. I was hungry and tired and did my best to sleep. We stopped in Veracruz and it seemed we were going to stay there forever. Which I didn’t mind at all, as I had the worst bout of the worst motion sickness ever. Later it turned out it wasn’t motion sickness at all, but a bad burger from Wendy’s in Cancun. Quite a few people got food poisoning from that joint that summer, and mine was a relatively mild case. Still, it was no fun to go through it on a cross-country Mexican bus ride.


But anyway, where were we? In Veracruz, right? So, this guy got on the bus, and because the only empty seat was next to me, he had no choice but to be brave, sit down and inhale the vapors of my vomit. The alternative was standing for the next 14 hours, or so. Actually, more like 20 hours, because the bus broke down soon after leaving Veracruz.


For the life of me, I don’t remember the guy’s name. He was from Arizona, or maybe Arkansas, and on his way to see his relatives in Mexico City. His car was stolen in Veracruz and we immediately bonded over our mutual misfortunes. He spoke Spanish, seemed to know where he was going and took me under his wing, vomit and all.


His relatives owned a swanky little restaurant somewhere in Mexico City and that was our first destination. To get there we rode the metro. I had been told what a horrid, dangerous place this Mexico City was, where at every corner evil characters waited to take my money, or my virginity. The metro was supposed to be even worse. But because I had no money left, and my virginity was highly questionable at that point, I let myself be led into the bowels of the Mexico City underground transport system. And surprise, surprise. It turned out to be clean, cheap and efficient. With helpful pictograms at every turn to aid those who couldn’t read Spanish (like me, back in those days, for example). Though my new friend explained the pictures were aimed at illiterate campesinos, who were flooding Mexico City with hopes of a better life.


I was enamored with Mexico City. It was frantic and crazy, crowded and vibrant, yet friendly and somehow oddly familiar at the same time. Exactly how Mr. Lida describes it.


We ate at the guy’s relatives’ restaurant and were quickly sorted a place to crash for the night somewhere behind the kitchen. We listened to live music long into the night, and in the morning were rustled back to life by the sounds of a produce deliveryman.


When my week in Mexico City had come to an end, I was in love. With the place. Not with the guy – in any case, he was batting for the other team. A pity, too. The guy was hot.


Reading Mr. Lida’s book brought back all those memories, and then some. His book is meticulous when it comes to facts and details. You can use it as a guidebook, if you want. All you ever needed to know about Mexico City is there. Now, if it only had a bit of humor in it, it would have been perfect.


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